WesleyTour.com & Amazing Images of London Over the Years

See these historical sites in person!

Sign up BEFORE FEB. 1, 2017 for a world-changing tour to Wesley’s London, Oxford & more … WesleyTour.com.

“Amazing images of the world’s great cities before they were cities” by Lenna Garfield, Business Insider Magazine, 9/20/16.

The Romans founded Londinium (now known as London) in 43 AD. You can see the city’s first bridge, crossing over the Thames River, in the illustration below.

The Romans founded Londinium (now known as London) in 43 AD. You can see the city's first bridge, crossing over the Thames River, in the illustration below.
Imgur

By the 11th century, London was the largest port in England.

By the 11th century, London was the largest port in England.
Getty Images

Westminster Abbey, built in the second century, is a World Heritage Site and one of London’s oldest and most important buildings. Here it is in a 1749 painting.

Westminster Abbey, built in the second century, is a World Heritage Site and one of London's oldest and most important buildings. Here it is in a 1749 painting.
Wikipedia Commons

In the 17th century, London suffered from the Great Plague, which killed about 100,000 people. In 1666, the Great Fire broke out — It took the city a decade to rebuild.

In the 17th century, London suffered from the Great Plague, which killed about 100,000 people. In 1666, the Great Fire broke out — It took the city a decade to rebuild.
Wikipedia Commons

During the Georgian era (from 1714 to 1830), new districts like Mayfair formed, and new bridges over the Thames encouraged development in South London.

During the Georgian era (from 1714 to 1830), new districts like Mayfair formed, and new bridges over the Thames encouraged development in South London.
London’s Trafalgar Square in 1814.Wikipedia Commons

The city continued to rise to the global empire that it is today.

The city continued to rise to the global empire that it is today.
Chris Combe

Read more at … http://www.businessinsider.com/images-worlds-greatest-cities-2016-9/#spanish-explorer-hernn-corts-landed-there-in-1519-and-conquered-it-soon-after-tenochtitln-was-renamed-mexico-in-the-15th-century-because-the-spanish-found-it-easier-to-pronounce-34

#WesleyTour17

EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM & Lessons Learned While Traveling in the Hoof Prints of Wesley

by Bob Whitesel PhD, The Great Commission Research Journal (La Mirada, Calif: Talbot Theological Seminary, Biola University) Vol. 5, No. 1, Summer 2013.

GCRJ Whitesel Wesley Hoof Prints COVERDownload the entire article here:  ARTICLE ©Whitesel Wesley Holistic Good News GCRV5-1-052.

abstract

The Good News can be understood as the message of the missio Dei to which varying methods can be attached. Churches, however, often specialize in a specific part or method of that mission, e.g., helping the needy, emphasizing conversion, or promoting discipleship. This article suggests the Good News has yielded significant historical impact when churches embrace a comprehensive or holistic understanding of the Good News that includes three methodological components: establishing legitimacy by meeting the needs of non-believers, effectively facilitating conversion, and spiritual formation in small communal groups. Missional and effective evangelism nomenclature will be discussed in relation to this holism. Finally, examples of simultaneous methodology will be drawn from the experiences of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, as well as from experiences of the author while studying Wesley‘s original letters and traveling the settings of John Wesley.

article

I recently visited in John Wesley’s haunts, from the high moors of Derbyshire, to the alleys of industrial Sheffield, to the cosmopolitan bustle of City Road in London.  Amid these journeys I sought to better understand Wesley’s writings (to which I was kindly provided access to the originals in various locales) and the development of his holism regarding evangelism. Though for months I had been studying the massive reams of his journals, letters and books, I found his comprehensive view of the Good News because clearer as I trekked into his world.

Wesley lived in a world that was surprisingly not too different from the one we live in today.  It was rampant with unethical new technologies that cheapened people, their self-esteem and their moral values. Compounding the problem, the Church of England had denigrated into parish fiefdoms where pastors amassed private fortunes, catered to society’s elite and harangued one another over private theological perspectives. Worship services had became uninspiring and lethargic.

This pattern was sometimes broken at regional-wide churches which adopted a performance-orientated tactic.  In these regional churches only the best musicians and preachers were invited.  Yet, still the masses were not attracted, for they had been driven to the cities by the promises of an Industrial Revolution where factories provided stability over agriculture. Here in the cities the masses struggled to recover a communal life they left behind.  And churches who practiced excellence or preached politics did not offer them the communion with God or one another they sought. Into this unexciting, stratified and irrelevant church Wesley had felt called to be a pastor … but to pastor differently.

John Wesley & Social Advancement

The term methodist was used in a derisive manner to slander Wesley and his student friends at Christ Church College in Oxford. They had gained a notoriety for attempting to live lives more purposeful and godly. They drafted for themselves rules to help them grow in their Christian spirituality and service:

  1. “To lead a “holy and sober life”
  2. “To take communion at least one a week”
  3. “To be faithful in private devotions”
  4. “To visit the prisons regularly”
  5. “and to spend three hours together every afternoon, studying the Bible and books of devotion.”

One of Wesley’s friends had suggested that the group go to Oxford’s most outcast inhabitants, those who were housed in the nearby Oxford prison. This had an amazing effect upon the Holy Club. Eventually Wesley and his friends would even ride with prisoners in the carts on their way to execution, consoling and comforting them.

From his years at prestigious Christ Church College forward, Wesley would view meeting the needs of society’s most estranged, be they believer or non-believer, as a fundamental element of the Good News.  Though fellow Oxford students would derogatorily call them “The Holy Club,” their methods of holding each other accountable, receiving the Sacraments and helping the needy only required one more element for their movement to become whole. And that was for these young men, who grew up in Christian homes, to experience an inner transformation.

John Wesley & Conversion 

As a fledgling pastor Wesley would not ignore the poor. After all, he had been involved in social advancement ministry since his days at Oxford. But still, he did not feel he had not experienced holistically God’s Good News. True assurance that he would be saved from damnation eluded him. The following recounts how I gained a better understanding of how Wesley’s holistic view of the Good News developed.

Wesley’s Conversion: From Savannah to Aldersgate   

John Wesley, perhaps like some of the readers of this article, always knew he was going to be a pastor. In preparation, he had attended the best pastoral-training school in the British Empire and was now in 1735 was sailing to the New World.  An impressive intellectual and well respected despite his Holy Club activities, Wesley had received a prestigious appointment to be the first pastor of the Church of England congregation in Savannah, Georgia.

On his voyage to Savannah a fierce storm threatened to sink the ship. Even hardened sailors were said to be in fear of eminent death.  John Wesley was no different and by his own admission cowered in the ship amid many of the people he would soon be expected to pastor in Savannah. Cowering in fear of his life, he felt himself a poor example of the eternal certainly that he must soon preach to the congregants who traveled in the ship with him.

But on the ship were a group of Christians that demonstrated a remarkably different reaction to almost certain death.  Known as “Moravians” they were Christian reformers from Germany who has emphasized quietude, mediation and prayer as a means to spiritual growth. In the midst of the tempest and impending death, Wesley and others were amazed at their calm and confident trust in God’s protection. Their resolve convicted Wesley that something in his life was missing: a lack of trust and assurance in God.

The ship weathered the storm, but a series of miscalculations in his first pastorate together with his spiritual uncertainty sent Wesley back to England with the thought that “I who went to American to convert others, was never myself converted to God?”

St. Paul’s and a Small Group Meeting on Aldersgate Street   

Back in London, Wesley frequented the meetings of the Moravians and similar like-minded Christians who met in small groups for quietude, prayer, meditation and accountability. Wesley also kept up his attendance at Church of England worship services since he never wanted to leave the Church of England. Wesley always believed that the Church of England was God’s instrument and he never advocated leaving it, nor did he want to. Many years later when “preaching services” of the Methodists sprouted up all over England, Wesley asked that they never meet at the same time as Church of England services. Wesley did not want the Methodists to become a rival denomination with rival meetings. Instead Wesley always believed the Methodist Societies should be a renewal movement within the Church of England.  If anyone was dedicated to turning around a church, even a denomination, it was Wesley.

One evening he attended Evensong at the mother church of the Church of England, St. Paul’s Cathedral. Only 27 years earlier this stately church facility had been completed from a design by the famed architect Christopher Wren.  St. Paul’s had been Wren’s architectural tour de force, and in Wesley’s day as today, it was a hub of tourist curiosity.

I too attended Evensong at St. Paul’s at the same approximate time of year to take in for myself what Wesley saw and heard.  Just days before I had been in the John Ryland’s Library at the University of Manchester, holding in my hands and studying Wesley’s letters about this and other experiences.  I had read what he said in hindsight, but now I wanted to experience the intangibles. Though times have changed in many ways, they have not changed in other ways. The Church of England is in much the same crisis of faith and irrelevance that concerned Wesley.  And though St. Paul’s Evensong on the night of my attendance was attractive, it was hollow.

The service began with a steward waving an incense censer as he lead the procession of priests and singers. Over the years ecclesiologists had reinterpreted these incense censers as symbolic of the soothing fragrance of the Holy Spirit’s presence. But in Wesley’s time, people knew the real purpose for incense censers. As a member of the aristocracy Wesley would have been particularly familiar with incense censers as standard fixtures in rooms where noblemen held counsel. Over centuries, this practice had slowly made it way into the church. On my trip I had toured the country homes of English noblemen and palaces of the their royalty, only to find in most large incense censers meant to protect the aristocracy from the putrid odors of the masses.  Large metal burners, stationed in these homes directly between the aristocracy and the commoner conveyed an sense of elitism and separation. And this practice in the church, regardless of a theological attempt to reinterpret their function, would have conveyed at least a subconscious impression of exclusivity to Wesley’s generation.

Yet most notable in St. Paul’s was the massively artistic ornamentation and presentation.  Here was everything the Church of England could muster in excellence and quality. Then as today only the best musicians, singers and pastors were invited to participate at St. Paul’s. Tonight was no different. The organ voluntary was magnificent, the surroundings heavenly with all the other-worldly flair that famed architect Wren could muster. The preaching was engaging and politically nuanced.

To Wesley this would have been the Church of England at its attractive best. Wesley had had been familiar with such attractional methods since his college days. Christ Church College had been the de facto college for the religious elite of the British Empire. Daily he ate dinner in its stately dining room, amid grandly set tables under imposing larger-than-life portraits of English statesmen and religious leaders.

At St. Paul’s this was reflected in a way that many churches tried to copy: an impressive atmosphere of religious excellence that would inspire the religious indifferent to exchange their old way of life for a journey into Christian maturity. But, the churches in the 1738 were largely empty, even amid a quest for attractive experiences that would lure the masses back to church.

As in Wesley’s time the majority of the attendees when I visited St. Paul’s where tourists. One small row was set aside for the “St. Paul’s Community” of which only a few seats were taken. The sensation was of grandeur, artistry and emptiness. And, this tactic was not wooing them in then, nor in my experience was it today. The large sanctuary, sized more for coronations and state funerals, produced only a hollow resonance. Thin echoes led to a feeling of beauty inexperienced. It was not too dissimilar to a mausoleum, where beauty seems wasted upon so few.

But when I left Evensong, I stepped out the front doors into one of the most bustling intersections of London.  Here Fleet Street, the venerable headquarters of the British press climbs Lundgate Hill toward London Wall Road. This is the ancient center of the City of London. In 1738 this was also the center of English business life where the work of business did not subside at 5 pm. And the broad and central steps of St. Paul’s’ provided a fitting place to gather. Add to this the tourists from across the empire that visited this center of the ecclesial smugness, and the dissimilarity between what was going on inside of St. Paul’s and with out could not be ignored. In Wesley’s time the streets would have been teaming with humanity in all of its liveliness and energy. And, it was again today.

I had always envisioned Wesley leaving Evensong after twilight in a pensive manner. I had envisioned him as making his way down the dark Aldersgate street adjacent to St. Paul’s to the small group of Moravians where his heart was “strangely warmed” and where Wesley’s assurance became solidified. Yet here as in Wesley’s day, the daylight would still have rule. But, there were at least two more hours before dusk. And the masses, since Wesley’s day, have used the broad and stately steps of St. Paul’s as central London’s main gathering place.

Today the steps and streets were no different.  What startled me was the drastic difference between the stately, yet lonely beauty of  Wren’s magnum opus and energy of the teaming streets outside.  It struck me, how St. Paul’s leaders so desperately wanted the masses to enter and experience God, but the masses seemed content to enjoy one another’s camaraderie on its steps.  No amount of excellence in design or execution seemed to meet the needs the masses wanted. They wanted community, they wanted fellowship and the church had created edifices staffed by curators.

Before long, Wesley was headed down the adjacent Aldersgate Street to a meeting of the introspective Moravians. How much different that small group must have been from his experience only hours earlier at St. Paul’s. To compare the two must have been revelatory for Wesley as it was for me. People needed what the church had to offer. But despite its best attempts to recreate the beauty of heavenly realms and attract the throngs, the church paled in comparison to the spiritual assurance that came from a small group on Aldersgate Street that encouraged one another in faith development.

John Wesley & Spiritual Development

Wesley had always been impressed with how the Moravians organized their meetings to allow time for quite reflection (sometimes called quietude), spiritual assessment and communal accountability. Here in the midst of Scripture, friends and reflection came to Wesley something all the stately grandeur of St. Paul’s could not amass. Wesley stated that he felt “my heart strangely warmed” and forever recounted this night as a night that changed the course of his life.

What came out of that night was a John Wesley who had a new self-assurance that God could help him surmount the foibles that had dogged him most of his life. The smaller community of accountability and reflection gave Wesley something he had benefitted from many years earlier in Oxford. Here was a group that knew him, that knew his struggles and who helped him overcome his questions of faith. And, they gave him time to reflect and then commune with the heavenly Father who sought to reestablish a relationship with John.

In both Oxford and London were elements that helped Wesley see how he was to participate in God’s mission. In the sacraments administered in the stately halls of St. Paul’s were the mysterious workings of God’s Holy Spirit in His church.  And in the company of fellow spiritual travelers were the accountability, support and divine communication he needed to embark on a journey to serve others.

A Holistic Method Emerges

Probably because Wesley’s conversion had been built upon many years of serving the needy, and then had been facilitated by the fellowship of a small cadre of friends, Wesley never seems to focus on one part of the Good News over the whole. Wesley had a passionate dedication to holism in his so-called method, that included social advancement, conversion and intentional spiritual maturity. Wesley would allow no one element to overshadow the others. They had been closely connected to one another in Wesley’s spiritual journey, and spent much of his life convincing others that they must be theologically and practically connected in the method that was emerging.

Wesley’s methods were so distinctively precise that over time the equally disparaging Methodist would replace the deriding term “The Holy Club.” Wesley never liked either, especially the term methodist, because he didn’t think that varying methods should eclipse a holistic mission. Though the mission was comprehensive it included varying methods that helped complete that mission. But any one or two methods, no matter how publicly criticized or glorified were incomplete without an understanding of the holism that Wesley experienced.

To read more, download the entire article by clicking on this link (courtesy of The Great Commission Research Journal): ARTICLE ©Whitesel Wesley Holistic Good News GCRV5-1-052

Speaking hashtags: #BetterTogether #TheologicalResearchSeminar

EVALUATION & Some of My Favorite Quotes On Statistics and Evaluation

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 6/18/15.

Statistics can be deceptive can’t they?  For they can be manipulated to create all sorts of results, some that even defy reality.

Here are some of my favorite quotes about statistics (garnered from “Statistically Speaking: A Dictionary of Quotations” edited by Carl C. Gaither and Alma E. Cavazos-Gaither, 1996).

“There are lies, darn lies, and statistics!” – B. Disraeli, English Prime Minister and political thinker (minced oath was utilized to replace Disraeli’s more base terminology)

“Like dreams, statistics are a form of wish fulfillment.”  – J. Baudrillard, French social theorist.

“The only useful function of a statistician is to make predictions, and thus to provide a basis for action.” – W. E. Deming, famed statistician, best known for his work in the area of industrial quality control

“The most powerful mathematical tools are sometimes less important to the engineer than some of the simpler or less powerful tools. But often, for lack of information about either, neither is used.” – C. M. Ryerson, statistical theorist.

And, just for fun some humorous perspectives on statistics:

“Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” – Samuel Clemens (alias Mark Twain)

“A statistician drowned while crossing a stream that was, on average, 6 inches deep.”

“Most people use statistics the way a drunk uses a lamp post, more for support than enlightenment.”

“An engineer, a physicist, and a statistician were moose hunting in northern Canada. After a short walk through the marshes they spotted a HUGE moose 150 meters away. The engineer raised his gun and fired at the moose. A puff of dust showed that the bullet landed 3 meters to the right of the moose. The physicist, realizing that there was a substantial breeze that the engineer did not account for, aimed to the left of the moose and fired. The bullet landed 3 meters to the left of the moose. The statistician jumped up and down and screamed ‘We got him! We got him!’” (Also recounted in my book Preparing for Change Reaction, 😉

I hope this quotes remind you about the potentially fallacious nature of statistics and evaluation.  While it behooves us to use evaluation, we must use it carefully, prayerfully, tactfully and suitably to ensure we do not interject personal predilections into our evaluation.

EVALUATION / NEED MEETING & How to Tactfully Inquire About Non-churchgoers’ Physical Needs AND Spiritual Needs

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 6/15/15.

Most leaders realize it is important for a leader to get all of the news (both good and bad) from the church corridors … but it is especially important to gain knowledge about spiritual and physical needs from non-churchgoers too.

Yet, many people don’t know how to ask non-churchgoers about their physical needs.  And we usually really falter, when we want to ask about their spiritual needs.  With an undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology, I learned to design questionnaires.  Therefore, I developed simple data-gatherings instruments to help in need assessment.

1)  The first (below) is a simple question that can help you ask non-churchgoers about their physical needs. The key is not to ask about their needs, which may be too personal.  Instead, ask them about needs in their community (and they will then usually tell you about their needs).

Figure 2.5 Canvass Question (Cure for the Common Church, 2012, p. 38)

“Hello. My name is ___________(name)___________ and I am from ___________(name of church)___________. I am asking people to help us understand what are the greatest needs of this community that a church like ours could address?

2)  Secondly, here are additional questions to ask spiritual travelers about their spiritual life.  It is from a chart I developed for the Cure for the Common Church book.  It can give you proven ideas (from John Wesley no less) for tactfully learning about the needs of non-churchgoers.

Figure 8.3 Questions for Discovering the Needs of Spiritual Travelers (Cure for the Common Church, 2012, p. 150) [i]

These questions should be asked with discretion. Many are variations of the questions John Wesley suggested. Remember, do not be judgmental and do not use these questions verbatim; rather use them as idea generators:

  • Do you have peace with God?
  • How is God dealing with you lately?
  • How do you feel about God? How do you think God feels about you?
  • Is there some thought or behavior that has dominion over you?
  • Is there something in your life you wish to change, but have been powerless to do so?
  • What faults are you struggling with?
  • What secrets are you holding that you need to share among friends?
  • What things do you do, about which your conscience feels uneasy?
  • What do you want to say to God about the pain in your life?
  • When is life flowing out of you?
  • When if life flowing into you?

These questions are not an end-game, but the beginning of a heartfelt dialogue with eternal consequences.  use them as guides to more organic and authentic discussion.  And as always, allow the Holy Spirit to infuse your mind and words (Luke 12:11-12).

[i] c.f. D. Michael Henderson, John Wesley’s Class Meetings: a Model for Making Disciples (Springfield, MO: Evangel Publishing House, 1997), pp. 118-119 and Joel Comiskey, “Wesley’s Small Group Organization,” extracted with permission from Joel Comiskey, History of the Cell Movement: A Ph.D. Tutorial Presented to Dr. Paul Pierson; http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/tutorials/cellHistory-1.html. The last two questions were suggested by Elaine Heath in her address to The Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education, Chicago, IL, June 16, 2011.

ARTS & True Story About How a Church Survives Over 1 Year Without a Sermon – by Using the Arts!

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 6/13/15.

“A Church Survives Over 1 Year Without a Sermon.”

That’s a headline that a lot of church attendees might appreciate.  But we know that Romans 10:14 says, “And how can they believe in the one of who they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (NIV).

*OC Cover 64KBut, there are many ways to share the truth without the modernist “lecture” or “sermon” as the main message carrier.  Jesus used stories, personal action, social engagement, etc.  In fact, while researching my book (Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations, Abingdon Press, 2006) I found a church named One Place in Phoenix that had utilized innovation to sustain and grow a congregation for the 1+ year they did not have a preacher … or a sermon.

If you would like to learn more you can download the chapter here (not for public distribution).  And if you liked the insights, consider supporting my publisher (and me) by purchasing the book.

Here is how the chapter begins …

CHAPTER 8
One Place
Phoenix, Arizona
(Excerpted from Inside the Organic Church, copyright Bob Whitesel, used by permission)

The outcome of a year without sermons.

A contemporary church, like a contemporary translation should impress the uninitiated observer as an original production in the contemporary culture, not as a badly fitted import from somewhere else. – Charles Kraft, anthropologist and author

First Encounters:

The preacher was nervous, for One Place Church had not had regular sermons for over a year, and this was his audition. Dressed in floppy hat, t-shirt and faded jeans, he delivered a remarkably poignant and engaging sermon, sprinkled with video clips from current movies.

As I sat in the middle of over 70 attendees, I wondered how this church had survived for
over a year without a teaching pastor, or regular sermons. “Without a teaching pastor, we had to teach the Word though mediums other than the spoken word,” stated Mark. “Interactive stations became our primary means for truth delivery.” Looking at the vibrant and enthusiastic throng, it appeared to work.

Download the chapter here:  BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – ORGANIC CHURCH One Place Chpt. 8

SERMONS & Wesley’s Sermons: An Interview w/ the editor of the @AbingdonPress book

by , Scriptorium Daily, 10/8/13
… Though he (John Wesley) wrote and edited voluminously in a variety of genres, it’s the sermons that made history and deserve to be heard today. Wesley even specified a few dozen sermons that he considered to be standards, which makes our selection easier. In fact, back in the year 2000 I consulted with Wesley scholar Kenneth Collins of Asbury Theological Seminary and asked him what primary text he would assign to a captive audience of undergraduates. He said, as I expected, the 52 Standard Sermons, and he even recommended a representative sub-set within them.But we’ve had trouble getting the old 19th-century edition of the Standard Sermons into the hands of students, and have limped along, making do with internet versions (they’re in the public domain, after all). For years we’ve had these practical challenges when answering the question, “what primary source should one read to grasp the thought of John Wesley?”

So I’m delighted that Abingdon has just released a volume that solves our problems: The Sermons of John Wesley: A Collection for the Christian Journey.

At about 650 pages, this collection of 60 of Wesley’s sermons is pretty likely to serve this generation as the definitive anthology for reading Wesley firsthand. It is published by a Methodist press and edited by two respected Methodist scholars. One of those two editors is the aforementioned Ken Collins, and the other is Jason Vickers, Associate Professor of Theology and Wesleyan Studies and United Theological Seminary.

Vickers is author, most recently, of Minding the Good Ground: A Theology for Church Renewal (Baylor UP, 2011) and is one of the leaders in the program known as Canonical Theism. As for his credentials to edit the sermons of Wesley, he is author of Wesley: A Guide for the Perplexed , and co-editor of the Cambridge Companion to John Wesley.

I asked Vickers a few questions about this new collection of Wesley sermons. Here are his responses…

Read the interview at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/scriptorium/2013/08/how-to-read-john-wesleys-sermons/

FACILITIES & Mega-church in a Mall? A Case Study #OrganicChurch

(Excerpted with permission from Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations by Bob Whitesel, Abingdon Press, 2006)

Chapter 3

Mars Hill, Grandville, MI

This is not your father’s mega-church.

A community preserves a sense of unity despite differences and forces that seek to splinter it… – Stiepan Mestrovic, postemotional sociologist and author[i]

First Encounters:

When visiting organic communities I have found it helpful to interview a person engaged in entry-level volunteer ministry. Such interactions often connect me with those who give an insightful appraisals. I soon encountered Doug Luyk, and explained to him the reason for my sojourn this morning with Mars Hill.

“This is a large church,” I mused. “What’s the key?” Expecting to hear about the pastor’s oratory skills, or about the church’s popular music ministry, Doug quickly replied, “It’s about small groups …. everyone needs to be in a small group. It’s the purpose and power behind Mars Hill. Small groups are the ‘church in the world,’ not just the church on Sunday.”

The remark was unexpected, but welcome. I wondered if Doug was a leader of a small group and thus might have a bias. But it soon became clear that Doug was simply a volunteer, who found small groups to be the glue that connected him to Mars Hill.

*OC Cover 64KDashboard (2006)

Church: Mars Hill

Leaders: Steve Webber (lead pastor), Rob Bell, Jr. (teaching pastor), Joe Hays (student ministries pastor), Denise Van Eck (community life pastor).

Location: The former Grandvillage Mall in Grandville, Michigan

Affiliation: Non-denominational.

Size: 10,000+ per week

Audience: people in their twenties to late-forties, middle to upper middle class, college/postmodern thinkers, multiple generations, dechurched and unchurched people

Website: http://www.mhbcmi.org

A Fusion of Rhythms:

Shared Rhythms

The Rhythm of Place

At first encounter, Mars Hill feels like a boomer mega-church,[ii] with a large auditorium filled three times on Sunday. The venue is a former mid-sized mall, in the auditorium of a former anchor tenant. With little decoration, the iron beams and metal roof give the impression of a warehouse; which could easily be mistaken for the habitat of boomers. However, a closer introspection of Mars Hill’s unassuming yet pervasive strategies reveals that this is not your father’ mega-church.

The Rhythm of Worship

The worship setting and format share common elements with boomer churches, perhaps more so than they do with many organic churches. Due to the congregation’s size, features of the organic church such as low-lighting, interactive stations, comfortable chairs, and the like were missing. And, the direct and concise format was similar to many boomer churches: twenty minutes of worship, an engaging sermon of forty minutes, followed by ten minutes of praise. Though the format was reminiscent of boomer congregations, the content was not, with a refreshingly modest and unpretentious spirit. This ability to create an unassuming ambiance amid a mega-sized congregation is a unique rhythm that will be discussed later in this chapter.

The worship music and its mode of presentation on the other hand paralleled other organic congregations. Worship songs by Matt Redman, Paul Oakley, and Delirious were given an edgy musical interpretation, that fused together a spiritual rallying call with personal submissiveness and introspection.

The culmination of this atmosphere led, as it so often does in organic congregations, not to an emphasis on the music, musicians, execution, or even my enjoyment … but rather on the majesty and supremacy of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Download the entire chapter here (not for public distribution … and if you like it or are helped please purchase the book): BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – OC Chpt.13 Mars Hill MI

Footnotes:

[i] Stjepan G. Mestrovic, Postemotional Society (London: SAGE Publications, 1997), p. 95. This is Mestrovic’s summation of Ferdinand Tonnies classic arguments on the distinctions between communities and societies in Community and Society (New York: Harper and Row, [1887] 1963).

[ii] Former city-planner turned church growth consultant Lyle Schaller, tendered the first well-known classifications of church size. He labeled churches over 700 attendees as “mini-denominations,” since they function as a network of sub-congregations (Lyle E. Schaller, The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church [Nashville: Abin

gdon Press, 1980], p. 28; see also George G. Hunter III, The Contagious Congregation [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1979], p. 63). Gary McIntosh in his book, One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Bringing Out the Best in Any Size Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Fleming H. Revell, 1999, pp. 17-19) labels churches over

400 “large” and notes the “organizational basis” of their focus. While these labels are better descriptors for ecclesial management, the more trendy mega-church label has prevailed in popular culture, and customarily describes a church of over 1000 weekend attendees.